The Knicks played good defense in the 4th quarter and went down to the wire against Atlanta at Madison Square Garden in this preseason game 3. Atlanta came in at 0-3 and were 29-53 last year — and so it was another Knick loss at Madison Square Garden to a bad team. But the story of this game was that Knick defense — and especially how Frank Ntilikina shut down Trae Young in the 4th.
Ntilikina hounded Young and forced him into missed shots and turnovers. At one point Ntilikina blocked Young underneath the basket on a drive, by getting his long arms on Young’s layup and smothering it down. On another play, Ntilikina intercepted a pass and led a charge back in the other direction. On another play Ntilikina got a big offensive rebound.
Knicks Lack “Floor General” In Closing Minutes
The Knicks fought hard and had the lead at several times down the stretch, but ultimately could not get baskets in the final minutes — and part of that was also due to Ntilikina, who organized the offense but did not orchestrate it — there were opportunities for him to drive to the basket and open up the offense but none were taken — instead the Knick offense came down to passes inside to Marcus Morris Sr or Julius Randle who did iso plays. The Knicks still lack a point guard who is a floor general.
Dennis Smith Jr got the other significant minutes at point guard in this game and was awful; showing major ‘rust’. The best offensive playmaker for the Knicks was RJ Barrett — who has the best handle of any Knick guard sans Allonzo Trier. Atlanta threw many tests at Barrett during the game — traps and double teams — and he passed them with aplumb — dribbling through them or passing out of them. Barrett looked real good — again — he seems to be in control of the game when he is out there, as if it is his game, and he’ll look for the right teammate at the right time or take it himself. His defense looked very good as well. His outside shooting looks to be his only weakness.
One hand jam 💥🔨 pic.twitter.com/7kV9MdkbrG
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) October 17, 2019
Mitchell Robinson did not start — Bobby Portis did. Portis filled up the boxscore — 16 pts on 6 for 12 with 7 rebounds in 30 minutes. Robinson played better than the game before when he was in foul trouble, finishing with 4 points (on 2 for 3), 2 blocks, and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes.
School Yard Team
For 3 quarters the Knicks looked like a schoolyard team — running up and down the court with no particular plays seemingly being run on offense and not standing out on defense. Knick Twitter was calling for coach David Fizdale’s head. 42-year-old Vince Carter was popping 3’s from everywhere in the 2nd quarter — having the end of career that Carmelo Anthony could only dream of.
At the start of the 4th, the Knicks buckled down their defense — without Ntilikina in the game. Atlanta’s Trae Young was beating them though so Ntilikina was brought in to shut him down and become the talk of the game. But again, alas, the Knicks did not make the big plays on offense in the final minutes.
Kevin Knox looked good — hit some pretty 3’s and attacked the basket directly and with venum. His defense and motor at getting after loose balls was also good — for a period in the 3rd quarter he seemed to be everywhere.